It was reported earlier that the Ministry of Youth and Sports were “forced” to move the finale of the FitMalaysia programme to Malacca instead of Johor. 

When prodded by reporters over the issue, some sources in the article implied that it was due to interference of the Johor palace. 

If that was truly the reason, why not make the real reason public instead of relying on keeping a tight lid on things. More worryingly, if even these internal sources are unsure about the real reason behind the move – what does that say about the internal communications within KBS. 

In the overall scheme of things, this is a small issue but it also is one in a long line of u-turns and dodgy dealings that continue to hammer at the eroded credibility of Syed Saddiq and the Pakatan Harapan government in the eyes of the rakyat. 

Indeed, it seems that KBS on a whole is going through a dark period – with rumors abound of layoffs and political appointments in key ministerial positions (namely from a certain single party). 

For someone who often touted that the youth of the nation should be empowered, and often came down hard on corruption cases of the previous regime, Syed Saddiq’s lack of commitment to communicate his ministry’s plans is utterly disappointing. If he really wants to empower the youth, he should start by outlining what he is planning and coordinate with existing stakeholders to ensure good outcomes. 

Of course, it is unfair to place all of this on his shoulders, he is only but one minister out of 24.

But if his colleagues in cabinet (especially the Entrepreneurial and Economic Affairs Ministry) are sleeping on the job – it reflects a culture of gross dysfunction within Putrajaya. 

Consider his suggestions to address Malaysia’s youth unemployment rate. 

First, he opposed raising the retirement age from 60 to 65 on the grounds that older workers are taking potential jobs from younger unemployed people.

This is a flawed proposition – older persons do not necessarily occupy or compete for the same jobs as the youth. In fact, the government needs to review its social protection policies to ensure adequacy and coverage as the idea of a comfortable retirement is becoming increasingly distant. 

Second, is his enthusiasm in introducing GoJek as a solution. 

This does not address the root cause of graduate unemployment is the mismatch and surplus of graduates to what industry really needs. What is being taught in universities needs urgent review. In addition, there are just too many university places available for the needs of the local workforce.

His personal stance on controversial issues also leave much to be desired. 

Last month, many Malaysians rallied behind Syed Saddiq when he unequivocally denounced controversial preacher Zakir Naik over his disparaging statements about non-Muslim guests in the country. In these times of divisiveness, it was good to see at least one Malay minister was taking the charge in defending the social contract in Malaysia. 

Unfortunately, days before Merdeka – Syed Saddiq posted on his social media accounts that he had welcomed Zakir Naik for dinner, asking Malaysians that it is time to forgive him for his mistakes and move on. 

Given the tone and genial pictures posted, Syed Saddiq probably saw that this was the right message given the timing but for Malaysians to see that their “progressive” youth minister cozying up with the controversial preacher was tone-deaf considering the context. 

Instead this u-turn continued to incense Malaysians were incensed, and rightfully so. The “apology” issued by Zakir Naik neither apologized or acknowledge the hurtful statements that towards Chinese and Indian Malaysians in his sermon. 

Separately there were short barbs on social media regarding NGOs who had expressed concerns on the khat issue, saying that they were “bodoh sombong”. 

Ironically, this dismissive attitude is seen even when he is speaking to members of the youth – take for example the condescension seen when he replied to a Form 1 student’s online petition to allow schoolboys to keep long hair, asking the student to focus on his studies instead. 

Instead of addressing or allaying concerns of his countrymen, it seems that Syed Saddiq has taken the easy way out to demonize his perceived “opponents” instead of finding the structural and cultural reasons behind them. 

If anything, this simply resembles the tactics employed by the previous administration, ones that Malaysians had hoped would no longer be used to divide them.

Syed Saddiq. You are responsible for all Malaysians, young and old. Let’s start acting like an actual Minister. 

Azman Md Arif